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Six Tips for Completing Your First Tax Return*

Six Tips for Completing Your First Tax Return

Before you’ve completed your very first income tax return, you might not understand why so many people reference tax season or their tax returns with such disdain. But once you get to that point yourself, chances are you might begin to understand these feelings a little better.

It wasn’t very long ago that doing your taxes meant spending hours reviewing forms, charts, graphs, tables, and pages and pages of instructions before signing your name and mailing it into the IRS. Today, technology has simplified the process a great deal. If you have decided to complete your tax forms and file them on your own this year, consider these tips for getting things done right.

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Don’t Put it Off
If you haven’t done them yet, there’s no time like the present. One of the worst things you can do is put it off until the very last minute, especially if it’s your first time. The best thing to do is to dig in and get started as soon as you receive all of the necessary information in the mail or online. Give yourself the time you need to read the forms and the instructions that accompany them and research any questions that you might have.

Figure Out What Form You Need
The easiest thing to do is to start with the 1040EZ form. It’s very simple to fill out, but only single or married people with no dependents can use this form. Otherwise, you need to use either the 1040A (the short form) or the standard 1040. The IRS provides a lot of guidance, including line-by-line instructions on how to fill out both the 1040EZ and the 1040A forms on their website. Hopefully one of those two forms will suffice for your situation.

Dive In
After you figure out what form to use, get started right away. If you have only one job and you received a W2 form from your employer, your tax return will likely be easy to complete. Don’t forget to consider all the common tax credits and deductions you might be eligible for.

Consider Using Software
If you don’t like filling out your tax return manually on a paper form, you can use free or low cost tax software to prepare your return instead. Most of these applications are very user-friendly and will ask you yes or no questions to guide you through the process and make sure you include all the necessary information on your return, including anything you need that might qualify you for tax credits and deductions.

Give Your Return a Second Look
After you prepare your return on paper or via a tax software program, you might want to have it looked over by a tax preparation service, especially if it is indeed your first time filling out a return. When you meet with a professional for tax help, take your completed tax return and supporting documentation with you to your appointment. Most tax preparer’s offices will charge a lesser fee for reviewing an already-completed tax return as opposed to preparing the forms on your behalf.

While this might not be necessary, this step can serve as a double check that you didn’t make any errors and ensure that you didn’t overlook any credits or deductions.

Don’t Forget to Sign
Forgetting to sign your tax return is one of the most common tax mistakes made by people who prepare and submit their own tax returns. If you don’t sign your tax return, it is considered incomplete and any money you are owed from the IRS could be withheld. So don’t forget to sign.

*The information in this article is not intended to be tax or legal advice, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek tax or legal advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.